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Availability of medication must be ensured at community clinic level to combat hypertension

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A large number of people in Bangladesh suffer from hypertension, a non-communicable disease that poses various health risks. One in every five (21%) adults in Bangladesh is suffering from hypertension and most of them, half of the women (51%) and two-thirds of men (67%) are unaware that they have hypertension. Hypertension can silently damage different parts of the body. Blood pressure measurement and availability of hypertension medicines must be ensured in all community clinics of the country in order to increase public awareness about hypertension and improve quality of healthcare services. Public health experts shared such information at the two-day long workshop for journalists titled “Hypertension and Heart Health” held at the conference room of Bangladesh Institute of Planners from 20-21 September 2022. The workshop was organized by research and advocacy organization PROGGA (Knowledge for Progress) with the support from Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI). Thirty journalists heralding from print, television, and online media houses participated at the workshop.

When blood pressure increases to higher levels than usual levels, it is called high blood pressure or hypertension. The normal blood pressure level of a healthy adult is 120/80 mm Hg. If the blood pressure level of an adult remains 140/90 mm Hg or higher on two different days then it is considered that the person has developed hypertension. However, blood pressure could be more or even less depending on various age groups. In many cases, there are no specific warning signs or symptoms of hypertension. However, in some cases of hypertension, symptoms like morning headaches, nosebleeds, irregular heartbeats, vision changes, and buzzing in the ears may occur. If high blood pressure is not kept controlled, there is a possibility of developing complications in some important organs of the body including heart and kidneys. Untreated hypertension can lead to chest pain or angina, heart attack, heart failure, irregular heartbeats, as well as stroke.

Referring to ‘Bangladesh NCD Steps Survey, 2018’, it was informed at the workshop that less than one in every seven people has been able to keep their condition under control by taking medications. According to the data of Global Burden of Disease Study (GBD) 2019, hypertension is one of the three major reasons for death and disability in Bangladesh. Only 29% of healthcare facilities have trained workers.

It was further informed at the workshop that the issue of controlling hypertension has been prioritized in a number of government policies and plans in Bangladesh but lacks any nationwide program. Following global targets for preventing non-communicable diseases, the government has set a national target of 25% relative reduction of high blood pressure prevalence by 2025. Hence, mass awareness must be created regarding properly measuring hypertension, its treatment, and risks of hypertension-related cardiovascular and other non-communicable diseases. Government must increase budget allocations to ensure hypertension treatment and availability of medications at all hospitals and the community clinic level. In addition to that, everyone must be made aware to adopt a healthy lifestyle to prevent hypertension, i.e., avoid intake of excessive salt, abstain from foods laden with trans fats, abstain from use of tobacco and alcohol, reduce excessive body weight, and stay physically active. It maybe mentioned that more than 10 million people die each year from hypertension which is more than all communicable diseases combined.

Dr. Syed Mahfuzul Huq, National Professional Officer (NCD), World Health Organization Bangladesh; Professor Dr. Sohel Reza Choudhury, Head of Department of Epidemiology & Research, National Heart Foundation; Professor Dr. S M Mustafa Zaman, Department of Cardiology at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU); Professor Dr. Malay Kanti Mridha, Director of Center for Non-Communicable Disease and Nutrition, BRAC James P Grant School of Public Health; Muhammad Ruhul Quddus, Bangladesh Country Lead, GHAI; Zahirul Alam, Head of News and Current Affairs, NTV; Mortuza Haider Liton, Convenor, Anti tobacco Media Alliance (ATMA); Nadira Kiron and Mizan Chowdhury, Co-convenor, ATMA; Dr. Mahfuzur Rahman Bhuiyan, Project Manager, NHF RESOLVE Hypertension Control Program;  and ABM Zubair, Executive Director, PROGGA were present at the workshops as discussants.

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